Healing Through Sadness

By Steven E. Hodes, M.D.

Physician to Meta-Physician

Sadness seems to defy the very notion of healing. Rather, all spiritual traditions point to a state of joy as essential in order to approach the Divine. Enlightenment is always pictured as a smiling Buddha, an ecstatic Saint. Kabbalistic and Hindu writings share similar notions that one should not leave one’s abode without donning a smile. To do so is to impose your negative energy on others as well as to doubt the ultimate goodness of the creation. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism noted that the transmission of joy through the act of smiling is such a profound spiritual act as to justify one’s entire incarnation in this lifetime.

Healing means, ‘to make whole’ and sadness seems to render one fragmented and frustrated. Sadness seems to weaken us, as if someone has tapped our vital energy and allowed it to dissipate. So, one may justly ask, how can healing occur through sadness? Precisely, I maintain, because sadness offers an enormous challenge to our sense of self. Precisely because it threatens to jolt us from a state of joyous equililbrium. Precisely because it forces us to explore our inner fears and to repair them. That is why healing through sadness is so powerful.

It is easy to smile when the sun is shining, all our plans seem blessed and we feel loved and protected. When we fear failure, disappointment, lonelieness we pull back within a shell known in Kabbalistic terms as klippot. Of course, the irony is that this act only further isolates us from the love of others as well as the self-love which can liberate us from sadness and fear. Our mission, therefore, is to tear open these restraints, to ‘raise Holy Sparks’ in the parlance of the Kabbalist. What greater challenge is there than to find light bound under layers of protecting darkness.

Recognize that these challenges are necessary and ultimately redemptive. Healing or tikkun becomes our soul’s mission in this world. It is a challenge to find joy, to liberate ourselves from behind self-imposed shells of protection.

Rejecting sadness becomes, therefore, an act of choice, of pure will, not of reasoned logic. To do so may seem to some as an act of delusion, or irrational ‘spinning’ of one’s life’s events. Yet the ultimate purpose is to recast reality in a manner that will allow us to break out of these chains of despair and to heal. How could Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl create a philosophy of psychotherapy, logotherapy in which the most horrendous of human degredation could be overcome through the act of will. How could such an individual ever smile, ever find one ounce of joy in existence? The fact that he chose to defy extermination through love and joy was Frankl’s response.

Spiritual thinkers have always acknowledged that the greatest achievement is to achieve holiness from the depths of darkness. Overcoming sadness recognizes this transformation. It is the ultimate form of healing.

© Steven E. Hodes, MD., 2006


Steven E. Hodes, M.D. is a board certified gastroenterologist with over 25 years private practice based in Edison and Old Bridge New Jersey. He also has a degree in Religious Studies and teaches Contemporary Metaphysics at Brookdale College as well as lecturing and writing on Kabbalah and Healing, the Jewish View of Afterlife and on Near-Death Experience. Visit him at his Blog, Physician to Meta-Physician at www.meta-md.com.

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